’Don’t ever wish our country to be a world power’

Letters to the editor, June 29, 2020: Readers weigh in on crushing—and coping with—the coronavirus, Camilla vs. Diana and a mass murder overshadowed by recent events
Canada Day Poll 20200626
A Canadian flag flies by Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, March 13, 2020. Indigenous and other racialized Canadians have been shaping the country’s history and culture for centuries, but a new poll suggests most Canadians have a lot to learn about most of them. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

In April, Editor-at-Large Sarmishta Subramanian wrote that economic woes to come may not be solely a coronavirus-triggered meltdown. As devastating as the coming recession—or depression—is likely to be, the health crisis is exacerbating problems in a system that was already under strain.

I appreciated economist Armine Yalnizyan’s distinguishing between essential and non-essential workers to champion an “essential economy.” Given its focus on food, shelter, safety and care, I think it could equally be called the “health and well-being economy.” The broad public support for its rise to prominence also raises the question: might the COVID-19 crisis prove to be “the crack in everything,” letting in the light of a new way forward—in which the needs of this economy continue to hold ground against the needs of the market-growth economy, continuing to prioritize the health and well-being of society?
—Heather Menzies, Gabriola, B.C.

Crushing COVID-19

In April, Senior Writer Paul Wells traced the long history of public health officials, epidemiologists and infectious disease experts warning governments of the deadliness of pandemics that spiral out of control.

I was amused by the comedy of errors that Paul Wells exposed in our history of dealing with epidemics. It shows the problem of compartmentalized thinking. How do you eat an elephant? One part at a time. But you can’t stop when you’re full, change utensils, or decide not to pay the whole bill; seldom do we have a plan for the tail or cleanup of the mess. We tire of the planning. I have been at those planning meetings. Nobody wants to go the extra steps. Nobody wants to fund it. Co-operation among nations? That’s another elephant. The aftermath will have the whole world swallowing hard as the indigestion from loss of life, income loss, and governments rising and falling builds. Living with a novel virus is the hard part; a vaccine helps only if you are alive to get one. I pray that someone has thought this last part through.
—Paul Lainen, Hamilton, Ont.

Pandemic coping

In April, Associate Editor Aaron Hutchins investigated the global race for a COVID-19 vaccine—and all the geopolitical factors that could determine who gets inoculated first and who’s left behind.

The wheels are in motion, moving to our new normal, but what really lies ahead? Reading your article, I realized this could be a catch-22. Would a nation use the discovery of a COVID-19 vaccine for its own purposes exclusively, or use it as a bargaining tool for political gain? I can’t help but wonder, with rising international tensions—particularly between the U.S. and China—what their course of action would be. I’m proud to be Canadian and hope we would continue to be proactive in maintaining our image as a fair and welcoming nation. This pandemic is a world issue, and nations must certainly address their internal requirements, but then reach out to assist other nations in need. The countries of the world must act as a team against this pandemic!
—Bill Hamilton, Virgil, Ont.

We are experiencing unprecedented responses by both federal and provincial governments to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They have demonstrated that when there is political will, a meaningful response to a crisis can happen overnight. Both have stated that we need to follow our health professionals and make evidence-based decisions to save lives. We have also witnessed, for more than five years, an appalling lack of meaningful response and political will in response to the opioid drug crisis. There have been 5,000-plus deaths in B.C. since 2016, and more than 15,000 in Canada during the same period, lost to the viruses of organized crime and illegal drugs. Our health professionals tell elected governments that we must treat addiction as a health issue, not a criminal one, but politicians have refused to acknowledge the failed war on drugs. The toxic drug supply took our son Ryan, who died on April 24, 2017, when he relapsed after eight months of recovery. He died on his job site during his lunch break. Politicians need to be held accountable and be made to defend the reasons why our beloved family members continue to die daily, year after year, when a vaccine that will kill the organized crime virus is available. That vaccine is a government-controlled system that is already in use for alcohol and marijuana, and should be used so that the toxic drug supply will stop.
—John and Jennifer Hedican, Courtenay, B.C.

Land of the free

In May, Contributing Editor Shannon Gormley assessed the state of freedom and liberty south of the border, and raised key questions about who’s really free—and why certain freedom-loving factions believe they have a right to do whatever they want.

I found Shannon Gormley’s column on the U.S. moving and so true. America has lost its democracy, its rule of law. Trump has insulted all its allies, praised its enemies and lied to the world. Small penis syndrome. Those masked, armed protesters who entered the Michigan state government building should have been stopped and arrested. If they had been black, they would have been shot dead. The world needs more journalists to take issue with the United States of today with its dysfunctional government and injustices. America’s founding fathers never intended it to be this way—make America crappy again.
—Brian Mellor, Picton, Ont.

Congratulations to Shannon Gormley for such a well-written column. The Trump era is the beginning of the end for U.S.-styled democracy. Powerful nations eventually fall, and America will be no exception. How one person can degrade a progressive and rich nation through fear, ignorance and lying is unfathomable. Hitler, Stalin—and now Trump and Putin. Canada has had a very co-operative and mutually beneficial relationship with our closest neighbour, the U.S. Now, for the most part, that relationship has been politically torn down. Canadians would do well to take special note. Stay the course. Don’t ever wish our country to be a world power. The very best national leaders are too often disposed of by those who won’t learn from history. The worst leaders take us all to war and deprivation. Leadership must have an inherent concern for social justice. We Canadians are fortunate to have a very good semi-socialist style democracy, and it is crucial to retain this and improve on it. Democratic systems are easily broken. Look no further than our southern neighbour.
—Don Armitage, Cobble Hill, B.C.

Camilla vs. Diana

In May, Patricia Treble urged royal watchers to finally free Charles and Camilla from Diana’s legacy, decades after the death of the beloved Di.

Bravo, Patricia Treble! Our king in waiting and his well-matched mate are finally being seen as the admirable loving couple they truly are. Charles and Camilla should have married when they first met, but are now an example of how good love can be the second time around. Charles and Diana were totally mismatched in almost everything.
—Bob Verdun, Stratford, Ont.

While the article is sweet in its adoration of Camilla Shand Parker-Bowles Windsor, Duchess of Cornwall and whatever, Patricia Treble is missing the entire point. Camilla may do more royal engagements than other royals and she may have chosen to be un-botoxed, but she has taken the safe route, and has always chosen causes that don’t offend anyone. The world loved Diana not because Charles spurned her; it’s because she took on issues that the palace found unpalatable—AIDS, homelessness, landmines. Diana was certainly beautiful and could have just chosen to live her own life and take her own lovers while Charles was taking his. Instead, she used her fame to bring attention to people who otherwise would not have received any. William and Harry and their wives pay tribute to Diana not only because the brothers lost their mother so young, but because of the causes Diana worked on. While I certainly wish Camilla a great life, whether she becomes queen consort really is irrelevant to most of us, as there are real doubts about how long the British monarchy will last after the Queen’s death. What Diana did was show me that I could put on lipstick, wear nice clothes, look pretty and still care about the downtrodden.
—Jennie Jonasson, Montreal

Where credit’s due

In May, as Canada marked 75 years since the end of the Second World War, John Geddes reviewed a new book about remembrance that tells the story of how Canada came to finally commemorate its wartime sacrifices—an annual tribute that didn’t always flourish.

It was heart-warming to see this well-written article illustrated by the most famous Canadian photograph of the landing of Canadian troops on Juno Beach on June 6, 1944. However, the caption was disappointing to the members of the 1st Battalion, Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders, the soldiers on LCI(L)-299 who waded ashore that day, but were identified only as Canadian infantry. It took years of historical research to prove to military historians that the unit in question was the SD&G Highlanders, in spite of the testimony of veterans who landed that day. Finally, it was the evidence of Royal Naval Manifest Records and, more recently, the discovery of wartime film showing the invasion fleet leaving Southampton, which identified LCI(L)-299 as carrying “D” Company of the SD&G, that provided the proof. In memory of the 327 Glens who gave their lives in the Second World War, let’s give them credit for this photograph.
—Brig.-Gen. William J. Patterson, Kingston, Ont.

Feline fix

In April, Brian Bethune shed some light on author Peter Christie’s campaign to convince pet lovers to spare some adoration for their favourite animal’s non-domesticated counterparts.

I just finished reading Brian Bethune’s article on Peter Christie’s book Unnatural Companions. Cats vs. birds is quite a dilemma for those of us who are field naturalists and lovers of “all creatures great and small,” including cats. I live on the edge of a small Ontario town, across the road from an agricultural fairground and a couple of blocks away from two, now-unused, industrial buildings. We have our fair share of feral cats. Three years ago, a mother and several kittens decided to set up a household under our garden shed. I called several humane society/cat rescue/animal control organizations and no one was prepared to remove them.My next-door neighbour has since had the patience to capture and spay/neuter four of the cats. Vet clinics insist that the cats get their shots before the surgery, and the shots come in two stages, two weeks apart, so one needs to keep the feral cats indoors or hope that they can be recaged for the second shot. Females must be kept indoors for two weeks after surgery, at which point the cat is taken back to the vet to have the stitches removed. Five hundred dollars later you have a healthy cat that can no longer procreate. Until there is more co-operation from various organizations regarding capture of feral cats, this overpopulation will not go away.
—Judy Buehler, Perth, Ont.

As I sit and watch the world news during these times of uncertainty, I am reading one of your recent issues. Your picture of a cat with its prey has a very misleading caption (“Contents,” May 2020), where it notes that “the world’s 750 million cats are the deadliest invasive mammal species known.” I believe that humans are the most deadly invasive mammal species known. You should check on their list of linked extinctions. By the way, cats may invade a habitat but they don’t knowingly go in and remove a habitat.
—Paul Clarke, Halifax

History of violence

In June, Emily Baron Cadloff profiled the tiny community in Nova Scotia has gone down in history as the epicentre of a mass killing. Somehow, someday, she writes, it hopes to turn the page.

Following the recent, appalling rampage in Nova Scotia, it has become common to label it as “Canada’s worst mass killing.” That is not correct. We should not forget that a match and gasoline, not gunpowder, were used in 1972 to burn to death 37 people in the Blue Bird Café on Union Street in Montreal. Refusal of service at the bar was apparently the motive. The three arsonists spent less than 10 years behind bars for their murders.
—Richard Green, Nelson, B.C.